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The Road to Worlds: Austrian Nationals

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

20th December 2018

First Edition Austrian National Championships winner Stefan Slaby
Title: Wing Commander
Deck Archetype: Interference (send in the Drones!)
Play Engines: Protect the Timeline, Drone Control Room, Free Orion Slaves
Draw Engines: Finally Ready to Swim, Remote Interference, Temporal Almanac
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists, Holographic Camouflage
Victory Correctly Predicted By: LORE and prylardurden.

Stefan's Commentary:
Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?

Well, the reports about Ken's and Michael's Distant Control decks intrigued me. Nobody in Austria had played Distant Control yet; and personally, I haven't played ANY kind of 22nd faction before (unless you count my DQ Empress deck). When I started looking into them, I wasn't sure whether I'd build something for myself, or just learn about their strengths and weaknesses to better prepare against. (The DQ is too hot for my taste right now, so my fallback plan was a variation of my recent MQ Voyager deck.)

Distant Control decks are actually far outside my comfort zone because of their extremely limited personnel selection (you can report for free only if native or reporting at the time location; each non-22nd report costs you one discard; and even if you report somebody non-native you simply cannot include them in a Distant Control mission attempt); and also their low personnel quality (even with Spires of Romulus and Comfort Women extending the pool of native personnel, many of the personnel in the deck are below my personal quality threshold for inclusion in any regular deck).

On the other hand, the rewards for putting up with these limitations are considerable: A way around most of the long-term risks in mission attempts. A way to attack the opponent at low risk. A good head start (I'd usually attempt with 7 personnel on turn one). In the end, after I had analyzed a lot of commonly played dilemmas, and seen how few actually could bother me, I decided to just go for it.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I was hoping to encounter many tame AQ solvers, whom I could battle while also attempting right next to them (without a need to re-play the drones). I was hoping not to have a mirror match, the mission selection based on 2 Treachery is close to perfect, so a mirror match would almost certainly get ridiculously messy with 5-6 shared missions. Anybody coming to Drone Control Room to kill (or assimilate) my personnel would also slow me down; however I believe I have included enough defenses for such games. My personal horror matchup would have been Khan; at 2-3 personnel per turn, this deck is on the low end of competitive reporting speed and could be almost completely locked out by Ceti Eels taking 2 personnel per turn.

Prior to this tournament, did you have much experience playing this deck (or decks like it)? Did you learn anything new about it when you played it this time?
No experience whatsoever on either side of the table. The available information from Ken's and Michael's tournaments was pretty limited, too, so I made up a lot of the details myself. (E.g. I have no idea why their decks included some NA males, whom they couldn't report for free or bring along on Distant Control attempts). During the tournament, I learned (among other things):

- Card plays are extremely precious, especially if you're battling and the opponent fights back (which forces you to re-play the drones a lot to "repair" them).

- Sometimes you'll want to download a drone even when you don't need one, to guarantee having a 22nd card for the Temporal Benefactor download later. This needs careful planning because it's start of turn only.

- Julius' cheesy Bajoran The Issue Is Patriotism / Defend Homeworld deck (which would have made for a far more interesting interview, no doubt) was completely circumvented by Distant Control, which prevents relocating to the spaceline. (Interestingly, I believe this refers only to the spaceline of the mission attempt, so a MQ variant of his deck could have worked against me...)

Did you use any situational cards (cards that you wouldn't expect to be useful in every game)? Are there any whose usefulness exceeded your expectations? Were there any that you wouldn't include if you played the deck again?
- The Space-Time Portals may seem redundant at first glance, but add an impressive amount of flexibility to the drone package.

- Diverse Experiences is a solid "win more" card. You can make do without, but once you solve a mission and play a copy, you transition from playing whatever you draw to actually having choices each turn.

- Out of Time, Orbital Bombardment, and Assimilate This! were all included mostly vs battles at Drone Control Room. They didn't see any use, but I wouldn't cut them.

- Seductive Dance seems powerful, but didn't see much use either. Early on you'll often lack either the card itself, the card play to play it, or the slave girl to use it. Later in the game you'll simply have 2+ of most relevant skills. And since it works only for Dilemmas, it won't even help you with any problematic rolls on Quantum Incursions. I've simply included it as a card play (because this deck cannot free play and/or DC attempt with Crewman D'Vela and/or Harrad-Sar) but it might be the first thing I'd cut.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Distant Control is the obvious choice.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Playing this deck feels a bit like playing Borg felt back in 1997. Very different; completely overpowered in some areas, very limited in others. I wouldn't be surprised if Distant Control and/or Temporal Benefactor were hit by errata soon. But if they are, I'll be glad to have played this before.

My Commentary:
Hmmm, what do I have left to say about Romulan 22nd Century Drone-based decks. They're good! They combine:

  • A flexible interference strategy that keeps the opponent pinned down (regardless of quadrant!)
  • Several free plays all concentrated in one spot
  • Low-effort draw engines that don't require your card play
  • High skill density supplemented by Temporal Benefactor
  • The other 20 things that Temporal Benefactor does
  • Versions with Distant Control also get to attempt space missions without fear of death or Cytherians

That's a pretty good summary of most of my First Edition deck reviews for the last year. The only thing that drone decks are missing that is a hallmark of a successful top-tier deck is a reliable two-mission-win strategy. That, and some way to keep worms out of the ears of their drone pilots. I hear those worms can be problematic.

If you're looking for further commentary on drone-based decks, try the following articles:

Hopefully that's sufficient!

Second Edition Austrian National Championships winner Stefan Slaby
Title: Knowledge Shift 2018
Headquarters: Romulus, Patient Stronghold
Deck Size: 70 Cards
Deck Archetype: Control Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: 50 Cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Chula Attrition
Victory Correctly Predicted By: LORE and prylardurden.

Stefan's Commentary:
Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?

Well, first let me say that my answer to this question will be long and detailed, but bear with me, I'll make up for it by having played a well-known deck so we can keep all the other answers short...

Now here's the thing: Shattered Mirror has just come out, and it is completely messing up the meta for me. Many people seem to like it, but personally, I just see several "stick" cards that seem to be designed specifically to hurt my 2E playstyle. However, even accounting for that, I wasn't going to bring something new and untested to a national, thus my choices included Voyager, Romulans, Cardassians, Starfleet. Maybe Maquis. So I analyzed how each would hold up against those "sticks" that might affect me:

- Denorios Belt, Silence Prophets is my personal horror card. It's not a very realistic threat, because you have to include this particular mission (which I believe few people will actually do as it hurts them too, while doing very little against half the opponents); then I'll see it coming; and finally you have to actually solve it and I have some degree of control over when you do (if at all). But still, I think I'd rather have seen the production of 2E cards end completely, than such a card being made... (This card hurts no particular deck of mine, but rather my entire playstyle, so it simply shifts my focus towards decks that are good at keeping the opponent from solving a cheap space mission: Maquis, anything that can battle, anything that can play Deliriums quickly.)

- Considering the rather small pool of useful Decay events, Compromised Experiment is basically another anti-Federation dilemma, with a focus on hurting Voyager/Equinox. wasn't Moral Choice enough? (This card just makes me not want to play my favorite Voyager for a while. Probably not Maquis either.)

- Overindulgence is a particularly weird design choice. Many affiliations have always had signature skills, to the point where they each received special personnel to protect them against dilemmas targeting those skills. Yet this simple wall affects ALL of them. A card that hurts lots of tier 2+ decks, and Klingons. (Among my tier 1 decks, only Cardassians are really weak to this card, yet they are also good at walking through walls. My Romulans have a surprisingly good skill balance. So, basically, no effect on my choice.)

- Lethal Wound is another weird design choice. Competitve decks are usually either preventing stops, or racing lots of weak personnel into play, overwhelming the capability of dilemmas to stop. In my opinion, the second playstyle isn't elegant or fun, and there have been numerous cards over the years consistently nudging players the other way (all kinds of cards punishing cheap personnel, big attempts, and multiple attempts). Yet this event, affecting both players, clearly favors the second playstyle. (Once more, a card hurting my entire playstyle, yet one that can be easily included in a wide range of decks. Luckily it's an event, so this card strongly pushes my choice towards decks that are good at destroying events - like Starfleet - and others that can easily add this capability.)

- Elemental Instability, a dilemma that hurts Trellium-D decks, but also the only meta dilemma in this set with a useful effect against a wide range of decks. (Not Starfleet. Duh!)

- At least mirror Bajor is not a "stick" but actually rather cool; one HQ with access to a wide range of cheating abilities. Klingon strength and stop prevention. Cardassian skill and attribute gaining. (Elim Garak, Crafty Underling becomes a whole new level of beast when EVERY personnel/ship in the deck can fuel him!) I got to know them while building a simple solver for our occasional player Jeronimo... (Spoiler alert: he tuned it, adding a few situational cards that I never would have considered, and went on to pilot that beast to second place. I don't think i've ever had to dump that many overcome dilemmas at a first mission attempt to guarantee the stop... instant tier 1.)

Anyway, all of the above pushed me towards my GQ Romulans, where the Deliriums can be downloaded quickly if needed, and it was easy to add a few more equipments and Grav-Plating Traps.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
No particular hopes or fears, besides what's been discussed above.

Prior to this tournament, did you have much experience playing this deck (or decks like it)? Did you learn anything new about it when you played it this time?
Same old, same old.

Did you use any situational cards (cards that you wouldn't expect to be useful in every game)? Are there any whose usefulness exceeded your expectations? Were there any that you wouldn't include if you played the deck again?
I brought one copy of Elemental Instability but it didn't do any direct work because the Starfleet players didn't dare keeping their Trellium-D in play.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Still Power Shift and/or The Die Is Cast.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Not really. To be honest, I'd much rather you use this space to have a quick look at the 2nd place deck (New Is Always Better by Slaby & Mitaroff) instead. I've barely beaten it (using Romulan bonus points and a well-timed Grav-Plating Trap), but it's still amazing & completely new!

My Commentary:
Lots of green this week, huh?

Interestingly, while I've probably written about (Second Edition) Romulan Gamma Quadrant Solvers about as much as I've written about (First Edition) 22nd Century Romulan Drone Decks, because those articles have been spread over more time, I'm not quite as sick of it.

I do want to say, after seeing a new Romulan build won the World Championships this year, I'm glad to have a reminder here that this classic build is also obviously quite viable. Okay, so I guess you can't really call the Gamma Quadrant part of the deck "classic", but the spirit of the deck is the same one you'd see in Romulan Solvers prior to Strange Bedfellows. You still generate points with Prejudice and Politics and Getting Under Your Skin and a ton of events. You still burn those points on Power Shift and At What Cost?. You still download all the events you need with Tal and The Viceroy. Peak Performance's Ruwon and Karina are also post-Decipher-era cards that have become staples, though I'm prepared to call cards from 2010 "classic" at this point.

Anyways, what I was saying is that, for Romulans, we've hit a pretty sweet spot for power creep. The new tools are just good enough to encourage players to use them and win the biggest tournament of the year, but the old tools are still entirely competitive. Even better, the best parts of the lurking Romulan decks can't get used in a standard Romulan solver like this one (other than the HQ), so they haven't just pushed the existing build into an even greater power tier.

Per Stefan's request, I'll also take a quick look at the second place deck, New Is Always Better. There are a bunch of different directions you can go with a Mirror Bajor deck - a friend played a Rainbow version locally this weekend; I'm also toying with primarily Klingon builds, and Cardassian-heavy capture versions. This one is a solid midrange solver with a good variety of solving tools (like Racial Disdain and The Enemy of My Enemy) and a few control tools like Predicament and Sense of Obligation. Looks like a well-rounded deck that should be a blast to play.


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